2008 Volvo C30 Review
Volvo goes kitschy cool.
The Volvo C30 is based on the same platform as the S40 and V50. All share the same 103.9-inch wheelbase, but the C30 is 8.5 inches shorter, all behind the rear wheels. Up front, the C30 is similar to its siblings, with the characteristic Volvo upright grille and sharply v-shaped hood.
Volvo designed the C30 with two doors and the design is striking, particularly from the side. The roofline starts out high and slopes gradually down, pinching the rear windows. Those windows are drawn in, leaving room for another Volvo characteristic, pronounced shoulders. Sporty characteristics include short front and rear overhangs, an integrated body kit, and big wheels on wide tires. The ground-effects-type body kit outlines the bottom of the car from front to rear and includes wheel flares at all four corners. On the 1.0 version, the body kit is rendered in a textured contrasting flat black plastic. On 2.0 models it is painted a contrasting gloss color, and Volvo offers several colors so customers can personalize their cars.
The story isn't the C30's front or sides, though. It's at the rear. Volvo is putting more emphasis on the rear aspect of the C30, choosing to show that angle in promotional materials. The most prominent feature is the dark-tinted rear glass, an attractive frameless trapezoidal shape that recalls the rear of the 1971-73 Volvo P1800 ES wagon. The glass dips down low and is flanked by unique taillights that rise up to the roof and jut out at the bottom to match the shape of the car's shoulders. The look is different from anything out there and is strong enough to give the car a distinct character.
All C30s have alloy wheels, with 17-inch wheels standard on 1.0 models and 18-inch wheels standard on 2.0s. Sixteen-inch wheels and tires are available as well, for drivers who value ride quality. The look is more attractive and more menacing with the 18s. Only five exterior colors are offered as standard options, but the Custom Order Options up the total to 16.
Volvo views its main competitors as the Audi A3, Mini Cooper S, and Volkswagen GTI. The C30 has a longer wheelbase than all three. Like the A3 and GTI, it's about two feet longer than the Mini. From the rear, it has more character than any of those competitors, including the Mini. From the front, it would be easy to mistake the C30 for its S40 and V50 brothers.
Volvo aims at sportiness inside the C30, along with high-tech, Scandinavian style. Volvo's trademark floating center stack is the central design element. The brushed aluminum center stack's design is simple, with four round knobs for the main audio and climate controls. Along the center is another series of buttons for more audio and climate functions, including a telephone-like set of buttons for the audio presets. As a unique feature, the center stack can be ordered with an integral surface design Volvo calls surf. Should this idea catch on, Volvo may offer more patterns in the future.
The standard cloth upholstery is also unique. Volvo calls it Kalix T-Tech. It has the look of wetsuit material. Kalix has a higher quality appearance than most cloth, fitting somewhere between regular cloth and leather. Leather seating surfaces are also available. Overall materials quality is typical Volvo, meaning excellent. The dash panel is made of a quality soft-touch material, and all the panels fit together with close, uniform gaps.
The C30 is comfortable, but not as comfortable as other Volvos, which are among the most cosseting cars available. The driver's seat has enough manual adjustments to tailor a comfortable driving position and enough side bolstering to keep backsides planted in corners. The front seats have plenty of head room and good leg room, though very tall drivers might wish for more seat travel. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps the driver adjust for a comfortable and proper driving position. The steering wheel seemed too big to us, though. Many manufacturers opt to go with a smaller diameter steering wheel for sporty cars, and the C30 would benefit from one, too.
Visibility is generally good, though Volvo's typically thick front pillars can restrict vision to the corners at intersections.
The audio system was given special attention as Volvo designed the C30 for young, active city dwellers. The standard radio in 1.0 models is a capable 160-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers and MP3 player connectivity. The better-equipped 2.0 models get a 650-watt Alpine unit with 10 Dynaudio speakers and Sirius satellite radio with a six-month subscription. A USB port for iPod or flash drive connectivity is available as an accessory. It allows customers to control their iPods through the radio. The high-end stereo can really crank, and the sound is clear even at high volume.
Interior storage consists two cupholders located ahead of a console bin that is just big enough to hold CD cases. Additional storage can be found behind the center stack in a rubberized tray. Unfortunately, it's hard to access. Map pockets are also located in the doors.
Though the C30's two-door body style doesn't encourage family use, the rear is fairly easy to access and offers decent room. The front seats tilt and slide forward to provide an open path to the rear seat, though it still requires passengers to twist and duck. Once inside, they sit back and into the seats. Leg room is good unless the front seats are far back and toe room under the front seats is plentiful. Head room is sufficient for six footers, but tall riders might need to slouch.
The C30's hatchback body style gives it a fair bit of utility. The rear seats fold to create a flat load floor with 20.2 cubic feet of easy-to-access cargo room. With the seats up, there is still 12.9 cubic feet, so you can pick up your groceries while driving with friends.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2008 Volvo C30, click here: 2008 Volvo C30.